Page last updated at 17:11 GMT, Monday, 19 November 2012

Ministers deny 'profound error' on Rwanda aid

The government has dismissed claims that its decision to reinstate aid to the Rwandan government was a "profound error of judgement".

International Development Secretary Justine Greening was summoned to the despatch box on 19 November 2012 to answer an urgent question on UK aid to Uganda and Rwanda by her Labour counterpart Ivan Lewis.

Mr Lewis highlighted recent reports of heavy gunfire and shelling in eastern Democratic Republic Congo, north of the regional capital, Goma, as fresh fighting broke out between UN-backed government troops and the M23 group of rebels.

The UN accuses Rwanda and Uganda of backing the M23 rebels in the DRC - allegations both countries deny.

But Mr Lewis told MPs: "The government's policy on this crisis has been nothing short of shambolic, and has seriously undermined the international effort to send a unified and unequivocal message to the Rwandan government that their actions are entirely unacceptable."

He demanded to know why Ms Greening's predecessor as international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, had agreed to unfreeze aid to the Rwanda government worth £16m on his last day before becoming chief whip.

The Rwandan government had not yet acceded to a demand from Prime Minister David Cameron that they publicly condemn the M23 rebels, Mr Lewis noted.

But Ms Greening said she was "disappointed" by the shadow secretary of state's comments, which she described as an attempt to "politicize" a complex matter.

The majority of UK aid to Rwanda was dispensed via non-governmental agencies and was therefore not affected by the recent controversy, the international development secretary told MPs.

"Labour has no ability to really criticise us in relation to, a, tracking results of our aid, and, b, being clear about whether it is being spent appropriately or not," she declared.

"Whenever we have needed to take action to curb aid, we have indeed done that."

Foreign Secretary William Hague had discussed the M23 rebels with the Rwandan foreign minister, she told MPs.

Ms Greening said the decision on whether the next tranche of aid to the Rwanda government would be released would not be taken until December.

The UK announced on Friday that it is cutting all aid to the Ugandan government after an investigation into corruption.

The Ugandan auditor reported last month that millions of dollars had been transferred from Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi's office into private accounts.

A Ugandan official told the BBC he was "not happy" with the UK's decision, acknowledging that money had been stolen from his office but denying any involvement.

Ms Greening told MPs that the Uganda decision was "distinct" from the M23's activities in the DRC.

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